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Lugging Luggage

Business or pleasure? Avoid the hassle of airline luggage rules and make your trip easier.

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These aren't the best of times for airline passengers toting a lot of luggage. The Association of Flight Attendants is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to limit carry-ons to 13 pounds and no more than 45 inches of height, width and depth. Congressional hearings are taking place on the matter, and carriers are quietly cracking down on travelers who board a flight with more than two items. So you need to devise a smart luggage strategy. But how?

Pack light. With more people flying than ever-the Air Transport Association counted a record 614 mil-lion passengers last year on U.S.-scheduled flights-the luggage bins tend to be stuffed to the hilt.

Plan for the worst. Carry-ons may be limited to two regulation-sized bags in the United States, but that's no guarantee that both items will fit into the overhead compartment. Irate passengers have gotten kicked off planes for refusing to check their luggage when space is tight.

Watch for the templates. At many airports, a template at the security checkpoint determines whether you can carry your luggage on the plane. If it doesn't fit, you'll have to check it.

Consider using an overnight service. Many business travelers have begun using overnight delivery services as an alternative to carrying everything with them. The services are often more reliable and sometimes faster than an airline's luggage-handling.